Since the referendum in June 2016 that determined the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, much has been in flux in the region. The UK’s impending Brexit has affected plenty, including work-life and the rewards profession in the EU.
The problem, however, is the effect has been the byproduct of uncertainty. There is uncertainty around the terms on which the UK will leave the EU, what the UK’s longer-term relationship with the EU will look like, how the UK will transition to this end state, what this means for market access, the availability of migrant labor and product regulation and then what all of this will imply for the prospects of individual business.
“It’s all an unknown at the present time,” said Claire Leake, director of European People Ops at Zayo Group. “It’s really too early to tell what the ultimate effect of Brexit is until we have reached a conclusion.”
While Brexit is the cloud that hangs over all of Europe at the moment, businesses are still preparing for the future of work, which includes automating different processes and integrating AI into day-to-day operations.
“It's driving efficiency in our processes and is enabling our people to pull data quickly with less manual intervention,” Leake said. “It is also enabling our people to develop and broaden the scope of their roles and means we can address workload volumes through automation in some areas rather than adding human resources.”
Leake said European employers are also placing a greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion when building out their rewards programs. She added that there’s been an increase in the utilization of data analytics to improve the employee experience. More European organizations are using social media to acquire talent, she said.
When it comes to the topic of pay equity, there’s been a conscientious effort by the EU to address the issue. In November 2017, the European Commission adopted the “EU Action Plan 2017-2019: Tackling the gender pay gap,” which takes a holistic approach and addresses the various root causes of the gender pay gap.
Germany passed legislation in 2017 in an attempt to shrink its pay gap, which at the time was larger (21%) than the European average (16.5%). The UK introduced similar gender pay gap legislation in 2017, which requires organizations with 250 or more employees to report specific figures about their gender pay gap.
“The gender pay gap methodology was a great way to shine the light on the fact that women were not well represented in senior levels at organizations. That’s really what companies are focusing on,” said Carole Hathaway, global head of rewards for Willis Towers Watson. “In time, we’ll see that addressed in the numbers, but I don’t think we can judge the seriousness of companies just by looking at the numbers year on year.”
Leake noted that European employers do not report externally on pay equity, but it is viewed as a part of continued focus in diversity and inclusion initiatives. As for the future of work and rewards in Europe, it remains dependent on the Brexit resolution
“Until then the future is unclear,” Leake said. “But at present our rewards are driven from global policies so no great changes are anticipated.”
Employee Attraction & Retention
Generation Z Impact’s on the Future of Work
For the purpose of this article, Gen Z is classified as those born 1995 or later.
Generation Z began infiltrating the workplace in 2018 and research suggests the group will make up nearly a quarter of the global workforce by 2020, which makes it the fastest-growing generation across the workforce.
So, how will this new generation influence and affect the future workplace? For starters, they’ll demand more from their employers, said Steve Pemberton, chief human resources officer at Workhuman, and though they share some similarities with the Millennial generation before them, they’re quite different.
“They’re the most educated generation, they have a heightened degree of activism, they’re much more socially conscious and aware and expect a great deal more,” Pemberton said. “But they’re also questioning traditional institutions and structures. That sets them apart from Millennials even. It’s important not to conflate the two, between Gen Z and Millennials, because they’re not the same.”
Because Gen Z is more focused on activism, they’re seeking employers that are committed to community involvement and will therefore be more drawn to employers that have strong stances on topics such as gun violence, income inequality and climate change.
“Those are all significant issues,” Pemberton said. “And in some cases, they’ve been so directly impacted by them that their view of them requires a degree of support and commitment and value alignment with their employers.”
No doubt a byproduct of growing up in an internet-dominated world that’s flush with a myriad of social media platforms, Gen Z is always connected and always seeking real-time feedback, Pemberton noted. Thus, it will force organizations to adapt what will soon be an outdated practice of annual performance reviews. Pemberton said he foresees this as being one of the many positive developments that will take place as Gen Z further integrates into the workplace.
“They’re going to see [annual performance reviews] as a reflection of a different time and therefore not relevant,” he said. “[Constant feedback] is affirmation and it becomes an ongoing development opportunity. So we actually see this as something that’s very positive and impactful and will continue to be.”
Gen Z also desires working collaboratively, Pemberton said, which might come as a surprise to employers and older generations in the workplace, given their proclivity for using different technological devices. That connection to technology, however, is a further extension on the influence this newest generation will have in evolving what it means to be “connected” at work.
“Their community has been online, so for them it’s going to be an expectation that they be able to reach out across functions with employers to problem solve,” Pemberton said. “There will be a recalibration and retooling because there always is, but because we have these tools of technology and digital and AI, they’re going to be able to wield that with great effect and it should be something that inspires us and unifies us.”
The most significant demand Gen Z will have of employers is a satisfying offering of work-life flexibility. As a result, Pemberton anticipates telecommuting becoming a much more prominent benefit offering for organizations. And, if properly implemented, it will positively impact an organization, Pemberton said.
It all adds up to a transformation of culture down the road at organizations across the world. Pemberton said he’s excited to see how it all unfolds.
“There’s a different way that cultures are going to be built so that they’re going to be meaningful drivers of what determines culture,” he said. “They’re not going to be stewards of culture, but creators of it, but the ability to do so on the fly is going to be an impressive thing to watch.”
Personalized Onboarding Is Key to Employee, Organizational Success
Onboarding can be viewed as tedious, but it’s a critical step in the hiring process. If executed properly, it serves as an auspicious platform for new hires to become a productive member of the team, which leads to future success for the organization.
Cheryl Hyatt, a partner at Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search, wrote that onboarding is a critical and often overlooked part of organizational success. Hyatt said that a poor onboarding experience can sour a relationship before it begins, which results an employee who feels “disconnected, underappreciated and demoralized.”
Hyatt believes in a more personal approach when it comes to onboarding, noting that while there will be some paperwork, that shouldn’t be the overwhelming portion of the employee’s first day.
“I think when they can bond in the early days and weeks of their employment, it helps them make a stronger connection within that organization,” Hyatt said. “More and more, institutions bring people on and want to get them rolling right away, so they don’t take the time to get to know people. They have a textbook, cookie-cutter way of onboarding and it isn’t relational and that’s what I think needs to happen.”
The aspect of being personal in the onboarding process is made more difficult with the emergence of AI and automation. Organizations are increasingly utilizing the advanced technology to expedite the process of onboarding. Hyatt’s concern, however, is that organizations might be tempted to fully automate the onboarding process in the future, which she thinks would be a mistake.
“I don’t think the question is should you completely automate it,” Hyatt said. “But rather, should you automate one or two portions of that onboarding experience and which part do you automate and when? Maybe you do day one and day two as face-to-face introducing and getting them involved with who they are working with and then the next couple of days put them through onboarding with automation.”
Where automation can be quite useful, however, is in dealing with gig workers, a growing body in the workforce. An estimated 57 million workers (about 36% of the workforce) freelance today, according to Upwork’s 2018 survey “Freelance in America” and it’s projected that most of the United States workforce will freelance by 2027.
There are various technological solutions to complete the onboarding process for a freelance/remote worker, but Hyatt said it still might be worthwhile to bring them into the office.
“It might be difficult to get to the main organization, but those couple of days of onboarding at the organization itself is important,” Hyatt said. “That face-to-face connection is important. Having a chance to really get to know people helps a new employee learn the organization better. Sometimes that can’t happen [and] when it can’t, you want to make sure those connections still happen.”
Another trend Hyatt has noticed is lulls between hiring and start time. An organization might hire someone in April and that new employee might not start until July. Hyatt said it’s important for organizations to remain in contact with the employee during that gap. Therefore, she suggests organizations should develop preboarding strategies for these scenarios.
“From the minute they sign they need some direction that either HR or someone from within that department is the conduit to that new hire to be able to pick up the phone and welcome them and keep them informed over the next month or two,” Hyatt said. “Preboarding is really important to keep them excited and informed.”
Brett Christie is a staff writer at WorldatWork.